MAISIE Adam took her first stage steps in youth theatre sessions in the Harrogate Theatre Studio.
Born in Pannal just outside the spa town, this former head girl at St Aidan’s High School would later return to the top-floor Studio in her fledgling days on the comedy circuit to perform at the Harrogate Comedy Festival.
Now, comedian, actor and writer Maisie is looking forward to tomorrow’s homecoming when she graduates to Harrogate Theatre’s main stage on her first UK tour, Buzzed.
The gig has sold out, as has tonight’s date at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, although tickets remain available for The Leadmill, Sheffield, next Thursday.
“It’s super-exciting,” says a suitably buzzing Maisie, 28. “It’s wonderful any time I go back, but going there with this show, in that specific venue, will be special. Whenever I’ve performed there, it’s always been in the Studio, but this time, being in the big room, feels very touching.
“Me and my family go to the pantomime every year to watch Tim Stedman. He is pantomime! He’s fantastic. That’s the level of comedy you have to bring to the stage, so I’ll be channelling Tim Stedman!”
Post-Harrogate Youth Theatre and the National Youth Theatre, Maisie trained at East 15 Acting School in Southend, graduating with a BA in Acting and Community Theatre. However, after initial plans to act and write, including a Laurence Marks sitcom-writing mentorship in 2015, a return home to Yorkshire and temp jobs led to her comedy road-to-Damascus conversion in 2016.
Wholly inexperienced, Maisie did a full hour’s set in her stand-up debut gig at Ilkley Literature Festival as her first show took shape under the title of Living On The Edge.
Acting involves subsuming yourself to play another character, sometimes using it as a shield for shyness, in a team environment, whereas stand-up comedy is all about being yourself on stage, on your own, maybe even playing an exaggerated version of you, performing your own words.
“I think it’s that whole thing of fear,” starts Maisie. Not in comedy, but in theatre. “When you’re doing comedy, you’re in control. If it goes well, you get all the cheers. If it goes wrong, you can’t blame anyone else.
“But with acting, you could be a really good actor, but if the script isn’t good, or the other actors aren’t particularly good, or the director isn’t, or the show just isn’t working, you’re not in control.
“With comedy, there’s definitely that thing of being an extension of yourself, and there’s loads you can do with that, because it’s a chance to improvise.
“The more you do comedy, the better you get at it – and it’s fun as well! If you’re continually doing the same play, you can get bored, but with stand-up, it’s different every night, the venue, the audience, the interaction.”
Maisie made rapid advances on the comedy circuit with her anecdotal material and convivial manner. Within months of that Ilkley debut she won the UK’s largest stand-up contest, So You Think You’re Funny?, followed a year later by the Amused Moose National Comic Award for Vague, her 2018 debut Edinburgh Fringe show about being diagnosed with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy at 14.
Television appearances on Have I Got News For You, A League of Their Own, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Mock The Week and The Last Leg have piled up, and a podcast with fellow comedian Tom Lucy, That’s A First, has been running since 2019.
She loves the unpredictability of stand-up, the need to stay on her toes and keep her comedy radar tuned. “The worst thing that can happen with comedy is that you feel safe and secure. If that happens, you’re not doing it right,” says Maisie.
“You should want anything to happen on the night, and as long as you have a loose structure, knowing that ‘x’ and ‘y’ will be happening, then you can move things around and be open to anything.”
Buzzed, her follow-up to her 2019 show Hang Fire, has been extended from the regulatory 60-minute maximum at the Edinburgh Fringe – or 70 minutes as the Guardian review said – for the 2022-2023 tour. “It was 60 minutes,” says Maisie. “It was just that when you have other shows going on before and after you every day, that day the shows were running ten minutes late.”
Buzzed now opens with a 30-minute “very spontaneous, anything-can-happen” first half, then a break, followed by the full Buzzed show. One that the Guardian reviewer said was “bursting with puppyish pleasure”.
“Don’t tell me about reviews,” steps in Maisie. “I don’t read them. You’re being judged by someone who’s never done comedy but just goes and watches. That would be like me ‘reviewing’ Wimbledon. I mean, I enjoy watching tennis but why would I need to review what was good about someone’s tennis performance?!”
While on the subject of sport, Wikipedia’s Maisie profile sums up her personal life as: Lives in Brighton. Engaged to Mike Dobinson as of December 2021. Also a Leeds United fan.
Mr Dobinson or the maddening LUFC, Maisie, who do you love more? “I think they’re of equal status! They’re the two loves of my life. 100 per cent.” One is much better for her mental health, however, she adds.
Her relationships, whether in love or with houseplants, feature in Buzzed and so does the footballing aplomb of 5ft 11inch Maisie. “I played at a relatively high standard as a kid. I got to county level,” she says. “I still play in a league in Brighton, but more of that in the show.”
Why settle in Brighton, Maisie? “I just needed to be nearer London, but the idea of living in London filled me with dread.”
Maisie Adam: Buzzed, Leeds City Varieties, tonight, 8pm, sold out; Harrogate Theatre, tomorrow, 8pm, sold out; The Leadmill, Sheffield, October 13, doors 7pm; Pocklington Arts Centre, February 17 2023 and The Wardrobe, Leeds, March 3 2023. Box office: Sheffield, 0114 272 7040 or leadmill.co.uk; Pocklington, 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk; Leeds, 0113 3838800 or theboxoffice.com.